In case you haven’t heard the news, former IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kenny Omega has officially signed a four-year contract with All Elite Wrestling, and will serve as a co-Executive Vice President for the fledgling promotion.
The “Best Bout Machine” spoke with Dave Meltzer on Wrestling Observer Radio following the AEW Double or Nothing ticket announcement party in Las Vegas, and had a chance to reflect on why he left New Japan Pro-Wrestling at the height of his career.
“I look back on my career in NJPW and there wasn’t much left for me to do there. There are still goals. I still felt that there was more myself and Ibushi could do as a tag team, for example. I had been gunning for a Tokyo Sports MPV Award as well, but that’s just an accolade. A lot of the awards, especially the ones controlled by the media, those are sort of used as devices for angles. Do I need to win a fake award?”
“I felt that I needed to go to a place where I could do more. Japan will always be a home to me, and I’m always going to be back.” … “Japan will still have a place in my heart, and a place in my life, but AEW or even WWE kind of seemed like the next step. Potential dream matches, and all that. I just wanted a new platform to reach new people, to use my voice and my unique way of telling stories, and all of that — I wanted to change the stage that I had been performing on.”
Omega also revealed that during contract negotiations, he almost opted to stay on with New Japan. The idea was to sign a new multi-year contract and remain one of the company’s top stars, while still being able to work occasional dates for AEW.
“One of the options that I almost went with was to stay full time in NJPW and be a lender talent for AEW. My heart was really in Japan and I really do look at that place as a home. It’s hard to say goodbye to something that you’ve given everything to. I gave a lot of time and my health to DDT, but in a very different way, even though it was a shorter period of time, I gave more of my soul to New Japan. To feel like you’re walking away from that was really difficult. I wanted to give Harold a chance. I wanted to see how the new presidency and the new regime would handle the company, and in the end it just — for various reasons — it just wasn’t the best option. It was actually the worst option.”
“Whether it be a time investment, or financial reasons, or creative reasons — there were better options available to me. Maybe the best way to put it is that the other two companies were more excited to have me. WWE’s offer was fantastic. They went about it in a very professional way. Those guys are nothing but consummate professionals in the way that they dealt with me, but at the end of the day AEW just couldn’t be beat.”
Omega continued to speak highly of WWE throughout the interview, admitting that the amount of potential “dream matches” there were enticing, as well as the idea of shutting of his brain creatively and allowing other people to tell his story.
“Do I maybe want to shut my brain off and have people write stuff for me? Tell me what to do? It sounds kind of cool actually. In New Japan I try to think — I’ve been handed a basket of lemons, how do I turn them into lemonade? I would stay up late at night, lose sleep and get physically ill, because I’m trying to think of a way to tell the story that I know can be told. Mentally, I was very tired by the time Tokyo Dome rolled around, as much as I was physically.”
“I can’t deny, WWE has a ton of dream matches of guys that I would love to work with, and guys that are my friends. But AEW is like — I love the potential of being able to work with all of these incredible, unique talents from every corner of the globe, essentially.”
Check out more of the interview at F4WOnline.com.
Editor’s Note: You are welcome to share or use our quotes from this interview. Please provide a plug for Wrestling Observer Radio and a h/t to ProWrestling.com for the transcriptions.